Gib-Bats (The Gibraltar Bats Project) is a collaborative study of bats in Gibraltar. The team also advises HM Government of Gibraltar’s Department of the Environment (DoE) on how to protect these animals, as well as their roosts. The project was set in motion in 2013 when a team of specialists from the United Kingdom, led by James Shipman, contacted the Gibraltar National Museum, DoE and the Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society (GONHS). Discussions led to the first meeting in October of that year, when a licence for the project was issued by DoE and the UK team flew out to Gibraltar to carry out a preliminary examination of sites with the Gibraltar National Museum Caving Unit (GMCU) and members of GONHS.
The project subsequently went from strength to strength and three members of the local team are now fully qualified and licenced to work with bats. This process of study took three years of hard work, with hands on field study in Gibraltar as well as intensive training courses in the UK and Spain. This has in turn allowed the project to expand, with the team now able to monitor these elusive animals year round.
The number of bats in Gibraltar has plummeted since the 1960s with over 98% of the bats having disappeared since then. This includes the local extinction of certain species, including the Greater Mouse-Eared bat (Myotis myotis), Brown Long-Eared bat (Plecotus auritus), Barbastelle bat (Barbastella barbastellus) and Horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus hipposideros/R. euryale). Gib-Bats aims to help the remaining populations to increase in number to what the local colonies once were. The protection now being given to old roost sites which were abandoned by certain species over the past two decades has already shown these species starting to re-use them for roosting and as resting spots between feeds. Although this is currently happening in very low numbers, it is an encouraging sign to see these old sites starting to be re-used once again thanks to their protection. Also, the team has in 2016 found one example of the Greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) using one of Gibraltar’s caves. This species had never been officially recorded in Gibraltar and could either be a vagrant or the early stages of a population spreading into Gibraltar.
Since the start of the project in 2013, Gib-Bats has increased the official list of Gibraltar’s bat species form 3 to 8 species (as at 2016). This included the discovery of the Isabelline Serotine bat and Greater Horseshoe bat, which among others, were new species to Gibraltar.
Gibraltar’s bats include Europe’s smallest and largest species. The following is the current list of Gibraltar’s bat species in order of size, smallest first:
The project also hopes to contribute towards the general public’s better understanding of these wonderful creatures, as key indicators of our biodiversity, which need to be cherished and protected. A popular event is the annual International UNEP/Eurobats Bat Night which is organised by GONHS where Gib-Bats showcase their work to the public. People of all ages get the chance to see any bats which may be caught in mist nets by qualified and licenced Gib-Bats team members and also hear the bats' ultrasonic sounds via bat detectors.
18-20 Bomb House Lane
PO Box 939,